Best Picture Winners #5 – Grand Hotel (1932)

Grand Hotel.

It’s grand. And it’s a hotel.

It’s also a movie! 😀

But of course it’s a movie. And more than that, the only Academy Award winning movie to not have any of its participants nominated in any of the other categories.

Pretty cool, huh? I think so!

Now on to the movie itself.

After the disaster that was Cimarron, I was really hoping for something much better. Something with engaging characters, a moving plot, and most of all, something not too long (unlike the next movie in this series, Cavalcade, which I’ll talk about next time). I have no problem with long movies, but make sure it’s something that will keep my interest. Or I’ll be spending more time on Twitter and Google Plus than watching the screen.

And fortunately, more engaging and overall better movie I did get with this 1932 drama Grand Hotel! In this story (based on a play, which was based on a book), we get to know the inhabitants of the Grand Hotel in Berlin at the turn of the 30s, and see how their lives intersect. We meet a baron (played by Drew Barrymore’s grandfather John Barrymore) who has to get by with card games and occasionally stealing jewels, and a disgruntled factory worker named Otto Kringelein (played by John Barrymore’s brother Lionel) who is dying (we never find out what his ailment is) and wants to live in the lap of luxury for once in his life.

Then there’s General Director Preysing, who was Kringelein’s former boss and who is at the hotel to close a major deal and hires a stenographer Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) to help him.

And let’s not forget Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo), a high-strung Russian ballerina whose popularity has faded and who seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Throughout the movie, we get to see these very different characters intersecting with one another, often in very interesting ways. Such as the Baron and Grusinskaya. He enters her room while she’s at the theater one evening so that he can steal her jewels, but instead, they fall in love when he comes out of hiding to console her, since he overhears her talking about ending it all. Then later in the hotel bar, Kreigelein, his former boss, Flaemmchen, and the Baron all interact when Flaemmchen wants Kreigelein to dance with her, but instead, he gets into a fight with his former boss.

It’s all really intriguing to see these stories play out. There is always something going on, unlike the sarcastic comment made by another character at the beginning and end of the movie. And I for one, thoroughly enjoyed this movie. You could totally remake this movie in 2016 and the story would still hold up!

4 stars out of 5

Next time: What I thought would be another Western, turns out to be anything but. The harder-to-find epic Cavalcade, another Best Picture winner based on a play.